Beginner Tips for Ice Fishing

If you thought fishing was only for summer, then you’re in for a surprise. Every day people are just getting into Ice fishing and is fast becoming a popular winter sport and pastime. It is a one-of-a-kind fishing experience that should be considered by all fish lovers. To start off look out for fishing areas in your state’s fishing guide. These guides list areas suitable for ice fishing.



Essential Ice Fishing Gear Items

Ice fishing is fast becoming a popular winter sport and pastime. It is a unique type of fishing and with it comes unique fishing equipment. This article will list the basic ice fishing tackle needed for a beginner to ice fishing.

  1. Fishing rods and reels

    Ice fishing rods are typically shorter than rods used in freshwater or saltwater fishing. Lengths vary from 24-36 inches in length. Their material are usually made from graphite or fiberglass. For ice fishing a spinning reel will work well but ensure that the line chosen for the reel matches the rod. A fly reel is another option and the advantage of this one is that there is less twisting of the line. Get a rod and reel combo that is balanced and is delicate enough to detect light bites.

  2. Bait and lures

    For ice fishing, live bait will work the best. Especially if you have a live bait cooler like the Engel 13 quart cooler. Jigs are the best lures for ice fishing. Chartreuse, fluorescent or glow-in-the-dark jigs are often very effective. For live bait, the common ones are wax worms, maggots, spikes, wigglers, and minnows. Live bait are normally used with Tip ups. Get an assortment of ice jigs to keep in your tackle box.  Find a local bait shop near you to get the best bait before you go fishing.

  3. Chisels and augers

    A chisel is long-handled blade that is used to chip into the ice or make holes in thinner ice. This tool requires a lot of effort which is why they have been replaced with more advanced tools. Ice fishing requires a lot of drilling on the ise sometimes through 3-4 feet of ice. An auger is what will help to cut through the ice.

    An auger is a drilling device that looks like a giant corkscrew. Hand augers are effective but the blades need to be very sharp in order to work well. More advanced augers are the power augers that run on batteries or gasoline engines. They are efficient but more expensive and are used for extremely thick ice.

  4. Slush scoop

    After digging the hole an ice scoop or skimmer used to clear the hole.

  5. Tip Ups

    Tip ups allow you to fish without you actually holding the line all day. Tip ups are a device set above the hole. They hold a small reel submerged in the water with a flag attached at the top. The flag tips up on the rod signaling a catch. They are mostly used for fishing for larger fish like huge walleyes, pike, large whitefish, and lake trout. Most tip ups are made from wood and the best line for a tip up should be heavy and braided.

  6. Ice Shanty

    There are various kinds portable shelters one can use while ice fishing. They protect anglers from the harsh cold breeze especially if you plan to spend a long time fishing. Examples of shelters include flip overs, hub style and cabin style.

  7. Warm Ice Fishing Gear

    Because Ice fishing is done in winter during icy periods, one has to be properly dressed while fishing. This is to prevent frozen fingers, frostbitten toes and ice covered ears. Wear two pairs of socks; long underwear; wool pants; a thick turtleneck sweater; and a windproof, waterproof gloves and waterproof ice fishing bibs. Make sure your snow boots and strong with a thick sole. Neoprene gloves and a face mask are also recommended.

  8. Bucket

    This is to hold your catch and it can also act like a seat on the ice while you fish

  9. Heater

    Portable heaters are necessary to keep you warm especially on icy cold days

  10. Ice fishing Sled

    Your equipment can easily be carried on a sled and pulled along on the ice.

  11. Metal Ice Cleats
    Ice cleats attach to your boots to make walking on the ice much easier and safer.

Where to go Ice Fishing

Ice fishing takes place on lakes and ponds of all sizes. To find the right fishing place ensure that the ice has a minimum thickness of 4.5 inches. Larger water bodies provide a wider diversity of fishing opportunities. Most state-owned lakes allow ice fishing, whereas county or municipally-owned waters may prohibit it. It is always good to check with the responsible authority to make sure the area has to be posted safe for fishing.

The first thing to keep in mind when going ice fishing is to stay as warm as possible. Layering is a must when it comes to ice fishing. Start by wearing thin layers first and bulkier ones on top. Also make sure that you are comfortable and can freely move around. It’s better to have extra clothes in your bag. To be safe, don’t go ice fishing alone. Always go with a friend or a group of people. Try and fish near others who are already on safe ice. Some necessary safety equipment to carry are ice picks. These are essential lifesavers that are used to pull yourself out of the ice in case you fall in. To help others in trouble, carry a rope that you can throw out to them. View our list of essential ice fishing gear you might need are creepers strapped under your boots to help with walking on slippery ice.

Early Season Ice Fishing for Panfish

It happens every year – but that wonderful time early in the season when the ice just starts to form and the panfish come alive. When the skies turn gray and the thermostat drops, massive schools of panfish start their annual migration in shallow waters to get ready for the coming long winter – and that means you can get your pan ready for some amazing filets.

And if you’re dedicated enough to be out there at the right spot as they pass under the murky depths, you’re going to end up taking home so many panfish that you don’t know what to do panfishing in the winterwith them all. In fact, the best time to go angling for panfish is when the ice is about 5-6 inches thick, which is also the perfect time to walk out onto the ice and have your own opening day.

But any beginner ice fisherman knows to exercise extreme caution when it comes to ice safety, especially during the early season. So it’s best to fish with a buddy and never neglect to have safety equipment like ice cleats, rope, a spud bar, communications equipment, extra batteries, and the like. Being prepared is the key to have a memorable time out on the ice!


Ice Fishing Panfish Accessories

Speaking of being prepared, in case the summer’s warm weather melted your brain and you don’t remember, there are a few specific items you should throw in your box to get ready for panfish. Since you want to stay active and you’re in the shallows, try using the lightest line you can  – like a spool of 2 to 4 lbs.–, as well as a responsive rod. That will help you pick up those sensitive and subtle hits from interested panfish. It might also help you to add a spring bobber so you’ll really detect any action. Some panfish, like Crappie, can actually gulp down your bait and swim to the surface so you won’t even realize you have one on.

For panfish angling, I like to use Tungsten jigs, but a jigging rap or spoon will come in handy, too. Stick with colors that are more natural if you’re fishing clear waters, but it’s ok to get brighter or bolder with your jigs if the water is already covered with snow. If that doesn’t do the trick, try throwing on a spike or wax worm for some extra play to get the panfish chasing.

How about if you’re trying your hand angling on a lake that doesn’t have much vegetation? Try to drop bait near sparse brush, wooded areas, and piles of rocks that act as fish cribs. Panfish will probably be swimming through these areas, but they could be a bit spread out so don’t be afraid to drill a few holes if you want to find the one that hits.

I’ve seen some experienced panfish anglers start at the edge of the weeds by the bank transitions and then drill holes in a zig-zag like the shape of a big Z. Once you’re squared away with those holes, it won’t be hard to locate where the panfish are really running, and you can settle in and focus on your favorite spot for the day.




Different kinds of bait are used, such as wax worms, spike, mouse or even artificial ones. A jigging rod is lowered into the hole with the bait attached. Using a tip-up line is another way to catch fish. When fish have caught onto the bait, a flag tips up on the rod signaling a catch. Reel and rod combo are typically used for smaller fish whereas tip-ups are generally for bigger fish.

To fend off serious cold weather, our favorite Eskimo ice shelters and shanties are sometimes erected. They come in different designs and sizes. Some are portable whereas others are more permanent for longer fishing seasons. The portable shelters are easy to set up and provide a base level of insulation from snow, wind and cold. Whatever type of shelter you use, make sure that it is well ventilated.

A lot of precaution need to be taken when ice fishing. It can be dangerous if you don’t do it right. You or your vehicle can fall in the ice if it is too thin. Other risks include carbon monoxide poisoning from improperly used heaters. Anglers could also get frostbite from exposure to the cold and wind. This is why safety is always considered first when it comes to ice fishing.